Monday, December 20, 2010

Gospel Learning and Teaching

(find the talk here)

When I read Elder David M. McConkie’s talk about gospel learning and teaching, I first wanted to apply it to my calling as a Primary pianist. Although I know it is also applicable to that calling, as I read further, I was inspired to feel that he was speaking to me as a mother.

He mentioned four things that we should do to be effective teachers:

1. Immerse yourself in the scriptures.

2. Apply in your life the things that you learn.

3. Seek heaven’s help.

4. Exercise your agency and act, without delay, in accordance with the spiritual promptings you receive.

As a mother, I am a teacher. I have a strong testimony of that. Mothers are their children’s first and most important teachers. We tend to outsource our children’s education – the secular education we outsource to public or private educations, the spiritual education we outsource to our Sunday School teachers and other Church teachers. But “mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” To me, education falls neatly in the category of “nurture.”

In being my children’s primary gospel teacher, I know that those four steps apply to me.

Elder McConkie says “The role of the teacher is ‘to help individuals take responsibility for learning the gospel -  to awaken in them the desire to study, understand, and live the gospel.’ This means that as teachers we should not focus so much on our performance as on how we help others learn and live the gospel.”

As a mother, this means to me that I should not focus on my performance as a mother as on how strong my children’s desire is to study, understand, and live the gospel. That is my goal as a mother – to teach them to study, understand, and live the gospel, and I can do that more effectively if I immerse myself in the scriptures, live what I learn, pray for help, and follow the promptings of the spirit.

I got married when I was nineteen. I was young, but not foolish. I was pure, but not naïve. I knew that what I wanted was to be sealed to a worthy man in the temple for time and all eternity, and after getting to know the man who would become my husband, I decided that he would be a fit companion, if he felt the same way about me. He did, and we were married. A little over a year later, we brought our first child into the world – a son. I was a young mother, only twenty, and due to my stature, people often think I am even younger than I am.

When I was first a mother, I felt quite confident in my mothering abilities – I knew that I had prepared for motherhood my entire life. I had studied the scriptures and the words of the prophets, I had prayed mightily with God, asking him to prepare me to be a mother. Being a young mother is not easy, but I was prepared, and I felt that I would be a great mother. However, there were always people around me who thought I was too young to be an effective mother. My own husband sometimes had his doubts, knowing that I was young and didn’t have much experience.

I struggled for a few years after being around all the doubt and judgment, but in the past few months, my courage has been coming back – probably because I am doing the things Elder McConkie spoke about.

One thing he said comforted me:

“Note that what matters most in learning is not the number of years a teacher has been a member of the Church or how much teaching experience a person has or even the teacher’s knowledge of the gospel or teaching techniques. What matters most is the attitude or spirit by which the teacher teaches.”

I will restate that quote, changing it a little to apply to mothers: “Note that what matters most in learning is not the number of years a [mother has been a mother] or how much [mothering] experience a persona has or even the [mother’s] knowledge of the gospel or [mothering] techniques. What matters most is the attitude or spirit by which the [mother mothers].”

I testify that as we study the scriptures, live the gospel, pray for help, and follow the promptings of the spirit, we will become better mothers for our children, even if we don’t have much experience or knowledge – the Lord will guide us, and will bless our efforts.

Do you sometimes feel “inexperienced” as a mother (or a father)? What things do you do to be a great mother with the right attitude? How to you teach your children to study, understand, and live the gospel?

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